Future watch is a continuing a series of stories breaking down film from the members of Pitt football’s recruiting Class of 2021 by Pittsburgh Sports Now analyst Nick Farabaugh.
Pitt landed a big fish in their 2021 recruiting efforts on Friday.
Elliot Donald, the nephew of Pitt legend Aaron Donald, committed to Pitt and became their highest-rated recruit in the 2021 class. With that rating and name comes a lot of expectations upon the shoulders of the young Donald. Playing for local Central Catholic High School, Donald racked up offers from Penn State, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, Texas A&M, and more. Still, he shunned them for the hometown Panthers.
What is Pitt getting in the much-hyped up Donald? Let’s take a look at his highlight video for more insight.
Notes from the Tape
• Donald’s explosiveness is the first thing that jumps out on tape. Boy, does he fly off the line. That is by far his best trait. The first step he has will give him a lot of considerable upside and gap penetrating ability.
• His hands are lightning quick. They are active and potent at the point of attack. For any lineman trying to get inside the pads of Donald, those hands are going to be pesky.
• Donald has a superb chop-swim move combination that saw a lot of success last season. It was his bread and butter and a go-to move to net those sacks and tackles for loss.
• At times, Donald showcases a working bull rush. Given his explosiveness, there is a lot of potential here for potent speed-to-power conversion, which in turn creates a strong bull rush. At this time, it is still somewhat inconsistent, though.
• Donald struggles with pad level at times. He can let his pads swell, despite having natural leverage given his size at 6-foot-3. In order to fully take advantage of that bull rush, his pad level will have to improve.
• The toolbox will need to expand at the next level. That chop-swim is fun, and the bull rush has potential, but it would be nice to see him develop a greater variety of moves to throw off lineman. The more moves a pass rusher has, the better.
• In addition to that toolbox, adding a counter would be nice for Donald. He will always be a handful to take care of with his natural tools, but his hand usage paired with a more vast array of moves at his disposal means he has the potential to be dominant.
• Moving laterally, Donald showcases good change of direction and he can dip that shoulder to bend a little bit at times.
• Donald showcases clean footwork and sound anchor ability on the line. His balance is excellent for where he is at.
• He has more length than his uncle did, but Donald does not use it to its fullest extent just yet. He has to learn to extend and keep his pads clean.
• The upside to potentially having strong hands that pack a punch is there. It simply may mean adding some more muscle, but Donald showcases some good pop behind his hands.
• Two-gapping is more of a question mark at this point for him. He has the necessary physical tools, but could use his length more effectively.
• For the most part, he has a hot motor. There were numerous plays where he would change direction and chase guys down in pursuit.
Future Watch Outlook
Donald is a high-pedigree recruit. Right off the bat, that should imply a higher ceiling. Donald shows he deserves that high-upside evaluation, given his delightful first step and an impressive physical frame that includes above-average length. Those tools at his disposal, if harnessed, can catapult Donald to be a disruptive force up front.
A bit of caution has to be exercised here. There are pad level issues and it is never a certainty that a player will be able to add moves to his repertoire. However, Donald is a guy that lives and breathes football. He works around NFL players. To a promising college athlete, that usually means stock up for a guy like Donald.
At Pitt, Donald projects to be a perfect three-technique that can use his burst to be a deadly gap penetrator and wreak havoc on ACC quarterbacks. Despite some caution, there is definitely a reason to believe he will improve and only get better. The tools mean he could be an NFL prospect one day and Pitt fans should be excited about the addition of Donald to the Panthers’ defensive line.